It has never been more important to take good care of your heart. That is because heart disease is now the number one killer in the United States. Last year, more than one million people died from heart disease.
It’s scary to think that heart disease can be so prevalent, but it doesn’t have to be. You can take steps to ensure that your heart stays healthy and strong by following certain habits and lifestyle changes. These tips will help protect your heart, no matter what shape it’s in.
One of the best ways to keep your heart healthy is to exercise regularly. Exercise boosts your heart health by increasing the blood flow throughout your body, distributing nutrients to the muscles and organs, and stimulating the endorphin production in your brain. Talk to your doctor about what exercises would be suitable for you, based on your health concerns and physical limitations.
Another important way to maintain a healthy heart is to eat well. A healthy diet full of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can reduce your cholesterol levels and protect your heart. Try to avoid foods with added sugar, which contribute to high blood pressure. The healthier the food, the easier it is for your body to process it, and the more nutrients it contains, the more nourishment it provides your heart. Avoid foods with trans fats, which contribute to heart disease.
It is also important to consider what type of fat you are eating. While polyunsaturated fats and nuts help lower bad cholesterol, they also raise good cholesterol. Therefore, eating a balanced diet that includes some good cholesterol-boosting foods will promote good heart health. These fruits and vegetables provide important protective antioxidants that neutralize free radicals in your body, harming our cells and DNA. These antioxidants come in a variety of forms, such as vitamin C and vitamin E. Vitamin C is vital for the immune system, while vitamin E is necessary for the health of the skin, liver, and heart. You can find out more about antioxidants at the Antioxidants Club website.
Alcohol has always been known to be bad for your heart, and it’s not going to be anytime soon that it becomes acceptable to drink alcohol. If you’re drinking more than a drink a day, then it’s time to stop, especially if your goal is to stay heart healthy. Your body doesn’t process alcohol as efficiently as it does other foods, which means that it takes more of the substance to see the desired effects. While drinking alcohol may reduce your heart disease risk factors (cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides), it also raises them. For this reason, it is not advisable to drink alcohol on a regular basis.
It is also important to keep an eye on your weight. According to the Mayo Clinic, being overweight may put you at a higher risk of heart disease. Being obese may even increase your risk of sudden cardiac arrest. The best way to achieve a healthy weight is to eat a diet that is low in calories and high in nutritious foods. When you consume fewer calories than you need, your body will begin to lose weight automatically. This is called calorie restriction therapy, and it’s a proven way to drop extra pounds and improve overall health.
Along with dieting, it’s also important to work out and maintain a healthy weight. If you’re struggling with obesity, then it’s time to consider exercising more frequently and adopting better eating habits. In addition to eating well and getting enough sleep, you should also talk to your doctor about what else you need to do to reach your desired weight. If you’re still unsure whether or not dieting is the right route for you, then consult with a professional obesity counselor who can advise you on the most suitable treatments for your case.
It’s important to know your own cardiovascular risks. You should be aware of your family history and whether or not you’re predisposed to heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) advises that everyone should know their cardiovascular risk, which is determined by their blood pressure and other health factors. The following chart from the AHA provides an example of a person’s cardiovascular risk:
- Age (years)
- African American Race
- History of Smoking
- History of Diabetes
- History of Heart Disease
- High Cholesterol
- Drinking Too Much Alcohol
A person with a cardiovascular risk of 10 percent has one or more of the following conditions:
- Blood Pressure of 135/85 or higher
- Serum Triglycerides above 150 mg/dL
- Serum Cholesterol above 240 mg/dL, without having Had a Heart Attack
- Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
The following table from the AHA provides a listing of the most common risk factors for heart disease:
- Family History
Taking good care of your heart means reducing your risk of heart disease, but it also means knowing how to protect your heart once it’s been affected by the disorder. There are things you can do to help prevent further damage, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating well. You should also know that diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol are the three major risk factors that put you at the highest risk of heart disease. The more you know about the disease, the better chance you have of maintaining a healthy heart.